On a beautiful October night thirty-one years ago, baseball magic happened. Kirk Gibson, the grizzled Los Angeles Dodgers veteran, hobbled up to home plate as a pinch hitter to face off against one of the greatest relievers in baseball—the Oakland Athletics’ hard-throwing closer Dennis Eckersley. The stakes couldn’t get much higher. The Dodgers, trailing the Athletics 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, were in danger of dropping the first game of the World Series in the friendly confines of their own ballpark. With one swing of the bat, Gibson could win the game and cement his place as a key figure in the storied history of baseball.

With an audible crack, Gibson crushed the ball over the right-field fence and started his dramatic, hiccupping gallop around the bases, pumping his fist with emotion. The crowd’s cheering could be heard miles away. 

So, what does this story have to do with attending the Sensus Reach conference? Watch the video and pay close attention to the ball as it’s leaving the park. At the :09 second mark, tail lights illuminate the screen as a driver slams on the brakes. To beat the rush of post-game traffic, a fan listening to the game on the car radio, missed one of the most magical moments in baseball history.

I don’t want that to happen to you.

So, to save you from a lifetime of regret, I’m going to list the three electric sessions you absolutely, positively shouldn’t miss at this year’s Reach conference. (Coincidentally, Reach is being held just a short distance down the road from where the Dodgers play baseball.)

Measuring Modernization in Tacoma

Technology is moving at a breakneck pace and it’s very tempting to pine after the newest and flashiest shiny object. In my personal life, this is a struggle that is real and relatable. (I want the latest iPhone).  But really, are the benefits of new technology worthwhile? There is an investment cost and understanding how that relates to the benefits received is important.

In this session, Tacoma Public Utilities’ Matt Hubbard is going to discuss their strategy for measuring electric and water technology modernization. By connecting key performance indicators to AMI use cases to future roadmap applications, TPU has built an AMI benefits realization model framework that should have a few nuggets of information that are relevant to all utilities. 

PECO’s journey to communicate with smart inverters

With the influx of distributed energy resources (DER), understanding the convoluted world of power distribution is getting even more complicated. Today, it’s relatively common for residents to invest in solar panels and battery storage systems for their homes. Decentralization is here, and it’s here to stay.

In this session, PECO’s Evan Hebert will explore how one IOU views the distribution challenges of a decentralized world. Of particular interest is the role that smart inverters play in the relationship between utility and customer. Evan will discuss PECO’s successes and failures and unveil ideas for how to best communicate with smart inverters moving forward. If you are concerned about DER visibility and communications, then this is a must-attend session.

Reevaluating the lifespan of an electric meter

We decided to bring together experts from PECO, Alabama Power, Portland General Electric, and South Central Power to ask the question, “what is the expected lifespan of today’s meter.” In the days of analog meters, this questions was downright easy. Meters were expected to be in use for at least 20 years. There’s a lot more to it today. Technology is advancing at a breakneck speed, and smart meters are now being used as powerful extensions of grid operations. I expect that this will be a lively discussion, and it will reveal a lot about how these utilities view the intersection between replacement meter costs and continuing operational excellence. We’ve enlisted the help of Black & Veatch consultant, Kevin Cornish to navigate this tough topic and bring an industry perspective to the conversation.

Distribution Automation on FlexNet: Operational considerations

This session might not sound like it has pizzazz, but Distribution Automation is the future for many utilities. Through the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, PECO’s Luke Benedict is going to share details of their DA deployment. You’ll walk away with a much better understanding of how DA works on FlexNet and learn from their experiences. Luke is going to dive into RF network management, performance metrics, and how it is impacting PECO’s operational costs. If DA is even a glimmer of thought for your utility, you are going to want to sit in the front row of this session.

It’s going to be really tough for this year’s Reach conference to beat the excitement of that magical evening in 1988.  But, there are definitely a bunch of mission-critical sessions that are going to leave you with that same feeling of “glad I didn’t miss it.”

If you haven’t done so yet, make sure to get your ticket to Reach and catch these great sessions and more. I’m looking forward to seeing you in a couple of months.